Nortel Insider – by Desk Jockey

The view from one Desk Jockey

A look back at the Nortel executive

with one comment

carlingAs Nortel trudges onward trying to regain its footing, it’s often helpful to look back at the history of the company, if only to learn lessons from the past.

It wasn’t too long ago that Nortel, being fed by the irrational exuberance of the dot-com era, was branded as “Canada’s Darling” by the pundits.  Being catapulted into that limelight was no easy task and Nortel was not ready for it.  This was shown by the panic that ensued when the bubble collapsed.  Jon Roth stupidly mishandled things and his successor, the former CFO Frank Dunn made things even worse.  Dunn turned mere stupidity into outright criminality and him and his band of thugs were singularly responsible for the hatred and stigma that Nortel still suffers to this very day.  Many other companies cost shareholders money during the dot-com bust – but only one sticks out in its criminal handling of the matter and Frank Dunn is to blame for this.

Employees suffered the most as many were significant stockholders as well. In addition to losing their jobs, they suddenly lost much of their equity as well.  A lesson perhaps to anyone else – do not put all of your eggs in one basket! Because one day a thief could steal them all! (And steal all the eggs of many thousands of other people as well!)

Bill Owens time at Nortel was one of relative stability but the man’s heart was not in it.  This was evidenced in his short stint followed by his involvement in investing with Huawei – a direct competitor of Nortel’s! All of this while he was still receiving a pension from Nortel – something that many current employees may not have the “luxury” of experiencing! While he was certainly not a criminal, his actions are far from that of a saint.

Then we have the controversial appointment of the current leader Mike Z.  Nortel paid a hefty price to obtain this person and considering his credentials it seemed like a good move.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and no one can be faulted for this.  Mike Z. initially brought home a promise to change from the old ways by implementing strict rules on integrity and ethics.  

Unfortunately when tested on these issued MZ did less than stellar.  When faced with the Joel Hackney assault case, Mike Z. could have demonstrated his commitment to integrity.  However he instead chose his commitment to cronyism, letting many employees down.  Employees genuinly wanted to believe that this man would bring hope – after all they had endured many years of pain.  

But in the end here we are.  3 years into a 3-5 year plan with no end game in sight.  We have to do better.  The name of Nortel deserves it.


Written by Desk Jockey

November 20, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

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